Australia has approved the first phase of its lead-in fighter capability assurance programme AIR 5438, establishing a study into potential mid-life upgrades for the Royal Australian Air Force BAE Hawk 127 trainer aircraft.

"The Government has provided first pass approval for Phase 1A of the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program," said minister for defence materiel Jason Clare.

"The Government has approved the funding of A$43 million ($42.7 million) for Defence to develop options and conduct risk mitigation activities prior to Government approval at second pass, which is presently scheduled for 2013-14," Clare added.

The total cost of AIR 5438 is estimated at A$100-300 million. Government approval may be given in 2013-14.

 RAAF Hawks

© Royal Australian Air Force

According to the AIR 5438 project overview, the programme will provide a mid-life upgrade to the Hawk to meet the training needs that are associated with the current aircraft, such as the Boeing F/A-18 A/B Hornet and F/A-18 F Super Hornet, and the future Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

"The project will investigate sustainability modifications required to address obsolescence, maintainability and reliability issues, and examine a range of capability enhancement options," the overview showed.

"The precise nature and composition of the ensuing acquisition phase will be determined by the capability definition study to be conducted," it added.

Source: Flight International